IDENTIFICATION WITH CHRIST’S BODY
Sometimes we speak about paying the price or counting the cost for the Body life, the church life. There is indeed a price to pay, but we do not need to speak too much in this way. At least when we are considering the ministry of the Lord Jesus, we should not say much about the price. When we come to Paul’s ministry we shall see the cost—later we shall refer to this. Presently, we are dwelling on the fact that we are branches of the one vine. Is it a cost, a suffering, to abide in that vine and live by that vine? Oh, this is an enjoyment!
It is very questionable whether some so-called brothers and sisters have really been regenerated. They live as if they have become members only of the Christian religion. Of course, that is a real price, a real cost to them. They do not have a new life in their spirit, yet they are expected to have a new living. That is exceedingly difficult. It is like asking a dog to fly. If the dog could gain the bird’s life, he would need no command to fly; he would fly spontaneously. We must realize that we are regenerated persons, and that this new birth is not a matter of religion. Formerly we were born of the flesh; now we have been born again of the Spirit. This means that the human spirit within us has been regenerated. Now, in our spirit, we have Christ as the Life-giving Spirit, and we must learn how to live by this source, by this Spirit; how to abide in Him and let Him abide in us. Then we will love the church life. We will not say that it is a suffering, but that it is an enjoyment.
Birds naturally enjoy flying. Of course, a bird needs to rest at times; but after some rest, it flies again. Sometimes we need a little rest, but if we try to rest very long without meeting together, we deeply sense our need of meeting with the saints. Regardless of whether we eat, drink, sleep, or exercise, we still must go to the meetings of the church. If we are abiding in Christ and He is abiding in us, we will realize the church life. By such mutual abiding, Christ will grow in us, and we will become a part of the increase of Christ. This is the whole message of John’s Gospel.
The Gospel of John reveals that the incarnated Christ is the tabernacle of God, the vessel containing God. This very Christ has come into us, into our spirit, as the seed of life. We must learn to live by Him in our spirit, and not live by our own life in the flesh; then we will enjoy all that He is, and we will deeply sense our need of the other grains, the other branches. We will spontaneously love others, and they will love us; then together we will have the proper church life. In this way, day by day, Christ will grow in us, and we will be transformed from Adam’s nature into Christ’s nature. We will gradually be translated from Adam into Christ, and we will be a real part of the increase of Christ. All of us together with Christ will be one in the Spirit, and this will be the real building of God, the real mingling of God with us. This is God’s dwelling-place, the tabernacle, the temple of God.
These things are so simple and clear; we must not make them complicated. We must not merely think of these things, but practically apply them. Christ as the Life-giving Spirit first enters into our spirit, and our spirit is regenerated (John 3). From that time, He is the life within us, He is the strengthening power (John 5), He is the food of life (John 6), He is the living water (John 7), and He is the light within us (John 8). In fact, He is everything to us. But the secret, the one condition, is that we learn to live by Him rather than by our old life. Then we will become a real grain and a real branch of Christ. We will be a grain blended with other grains, and a branch growing with other branches. We will be one in reality with others in the Spirit. This is the enlargement of the tabernacle, and this is the New Jerusalem.
In the so-called churches of today we hear too many doctrines, too many messages which do not help us. We must learn to live in the simple way, and help others to live in this way, for then, wherever we are, there will be a wonderful church life, there will be a real building up of the church. Oh, the church life, the real church building, is not realized by organization, gifts, or teaching! It is only realized by taking Christ as our life, living by Him, abiding in Him, and allowing Him to abide in us as the Spirit. This is the unique need today.
Most Christians know that the Gospel of John speaks of the matter of life, but how many have seen the building revealed in this Gospel? Remember, the life is for the building. The Lord Jesus told the Jews, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (v. 19). The Lord did build up God’s temple in resurrection; it is Himself with His Body, the church. This is the building.
Some Christians ask how to start or organize a church. We cannot form or organize a church. We can do nothing but learn how to live by Christ, taking Him as our life, and seeking to help others live by this life. If we can do this, the real oneness will be realized, and we will have the church.
(The Vision of God's Building, Chapter 14, by Witness Lee)